The Observer has spent many an afternoon trying to puzzle out the clues in mysterious LLCs. That is, the LLCs that have clues—those that were not registered in Delaware approximately a month before the real estate purchase they were created to shield, named after the building that they are buying property in, and/or in the care of a huge midtown law firm.
But as real estate chronicler Michael Gross proves in a new Newsweek article, promising clues may well be red herrings. When Novgorod LLC purchased a nine-room spread on the 40th floor of 15 Central Park West in 2009, it was assumed that the buyer was one of the many rich Russians who had been sniffing around the building. Quite possibly a rich Russian with some intense personal or professional connection to the city in whose name he’d purchased a $37 million dollar condo.
Mr. Gross, who is finishing up a book on 15 CPW, reveals that the buyer wasn’t a rich Russian at all, but rather an American: Bob Diamond, the Connecticut-born CEO of British bank Barclays (BCS). In 2009, Mr. Diamond had yet to be raked over the coals for his role in the Libor interest rate scandal (for which he would lose his job, though not his fortune), but he was being pilloried in the press for his excessive pay.
Not hard to see why Mr. Diamond would want to hide the fact that he was buying an extravagant spread at New York’s most luxurious condo in the midst of the global financial crisis.
But as Mr. Gross notes, it is the fallout of this financial crisis that has made New York an even more attractive place for the world’s wealthiest citizens to park their money. With much of that money belonging to the foreign elite, some of whom made their fortunes via less-than-honorable means, the luxury condo towers have started to displace the so-called “good” buildings lining the Gold Coast at the top of the city’s real estate hierarchy. Chief among them (at least for now) is One57. As Gross writes, “its will-to-power penthouses are so high in the sky, they also promise invulnerability to the flight-capital types now pouring into New York to protect fortunes made on the lawless frontiers of emerging markets.”
Indeed, while Mr. Diamond and a handful of other buyers at 15 CPW have managed to obscure their identities behind LLCs, the building’s level of secrecy is nothing compared to One57, where hardly anyone knows anything about any of the buyers, except that they’re fabulously wealthy. And that they probably wouldn’t do very well in a co-op board interview.